The Pentagon announced earlier this month that human remains from a crash site were those of Memphian Army Air Forces Technical Sgt. Lucian I. Oliver Jr. and 10 other airmen. They were killed when their B-24D Liberator went down in what now is Papua New Guinea.
Oliver's nephew, David Porter, never met his uncle, but still has a yellowed photograph of him.
"About the time I came along, he was long gone," Porter, 60, who lives in Tupelo told The Commercial Appeal.
Memphian 2nd Lt. Robert A. Miller also was on the flight that went down.
Larry Greer, spokesman for the Defense Department's POW-Missing Personnel Office, said the Pentagon could not find any members of Miller's family.
On March 24, 10 of the crew, including Miller and Oliver, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Porter plans to be there.
He said he was proud and thankful that the U.S. government recovered the remains of service members who died defending the nation.
"It really is big to me," he said. "No one else in the world does it, but the United States does."
Oliver was 23 when his B-24 took off on a mission Nov. 20, 1943. The only radio transmission from the crew indicated the plane was 20 miles from the base, but it never returned.
Greer said no one knows if the plane was brought down by enemy fire or simply crashed.
The government of Papua New Guinea first notified the U.S. of a World War II crash site in 1984, but dangers, including the threat of land mines, prevented search-and-recovery teams from reaching the site.
In 2004, local villagers turned over human remains they had removed from the area. Recent forensic testing led to the identification of crew member Technical Sgt. Charles A. Bode of Baltimore, who was buried at Arlington on Feb. 11.
The remains of the 10 other crew members will be buried in a single casket, Greer said.
Porter submitted a blood sample for DNA testing, but said he was told his uncle's remains could not be distinguished among the bone fragments recovered from the site.
Still, he's grateful for the effort made to recover his uncle's remains.
"I can't say 'Thank you' enough," he said.